(CTN News) _ It’s bad when Waffle House closes. A popular restaurant chain known for its waffles and smothered hash browns rarely closes its doors and provides food and resources to first responders during natural disasters.
Occasionally, however, the weather is too dangerous, like Wednesday in Florida.
In mandatory evacuation zones and low-lying areas that are subject to severe flooding, Waffle House Vice President of Public Relations Njeri Boss told USA TODAY.
At 11 a.m. EDT, 21 locations were closed from Naples on the Gulf of Mexico north to Bradenton in Manatee County.
As the west coast of Florida braced for landfall Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph .
Since Ian became a named storm, the Waffle House Storm Center has been monitoring the storm’s path.
According to Boss, the restaurant was working round-the-clock with local governments and emergency responders on Wednesday.
“We follow storms during hurricane season, following their progress whenever there’s a chance they’ll make landfall or deliver significant storm conditions,” she said.
During a hurricane, tornado or other disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency monitors the Waffle House Index, a color-coded indicator of what restaurants are open, closed or offering a limited menu.
The Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how fast a business might rebound – it also tells us how the community is doing. “The sooner restaurants, grocery stores, corner stores, and banks reopen, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a strong recovery.”
How the Waffle House Index works
Waffle House has three tiers: green, yellow, and red.
In green, the store will be fully operational, and in yellow, the restaurant will be open but with a limited menu or power. Closed means red.
A weather index has been used to predict how severe a storm will be in a given area.
The closed Waffle House means stuff is about to get real, tweeted Twitter user Ted Vician.